For my first magazine article here in Clare, I’m sure that you might be expecting something pithy related to moving and settling or something about me and the family. Well, I don’t plan to be so self-indulgent (well, not this time, anyway).
Instead, let’s take a moment to take stock of the here and now. We’re reaching the end of what some have laughingly called the summer and, while still waiting for our summer wardrobe to dry out so we can put it away until next year, we now embark on the period of the church calendar that isn’t allowed to anticipate Christmas yet. By this, I mean Harvest and Remembrance; two events that have, in one instance, been a stalwart of the church year for centuries and, in the other instance, a pause for reflection stretching back nearly 100 years.
In both events, the world outside our church is brought into sharp focus.
For Harvest, we celebrate “all good gifts around us” that provide for our daily needs. In our larger towns and cities, it is easy to become quite divorced from the source of much of our food; whereas around here, we can easily stock up on all manner of produce grown, reared, picked or harvested within a short distance from our front doors. And so, we thank God for providing the means, the people with the skills and perseverance, the weather and the opportunity to share in His wonderful Harvest.
At Remembrance, we don’t share in abundance, but in loss and separation. We remember those whose lives were given so that we can do continue to do things such as celebrate Harvest. Remembrance is a time for us all to stop and take stock of the cost of warfare. Lives cut short, innocents caught unwittingly in war games co-ordinated by powers beyond their shores, friends transformed into enemies because of national identities or ideological differences. The names that are carved in stone and family history are reminders that there may be a need to confront evil whatever the potential cost.
Depressingly, we are only too well aware that lessons are not always learned from history. At this present time, there are wars raging in areas of the world, some of which are merely a footnote in our newspapers. When we are made aware of these situations, we stand united in our abhorrence of injustice, we pray for those who suffer, we petition and plead with God and government to see peace reign.
And when we meet for Harvest and Remembrance we remember both God’s gift of food and also His gift of life. God’s compassionate love for His whole creation that gives gifts of food for both righteous and unrighteous; His compassionate love for His whole creation that gives gifts of freedom for each member to choose whether to be a blessing or a curse to their neighbour.
Harvest reminds us of ways that God’s gifts to us are well used; how generosity, hospitality and kindness build community and love. Remembrance reminds us what happens when God’s gift of freedom is abused; how selfishness, jealousy and intolerance destroy community and love. It’s our decision to choose how we use God’s gift of life:
Love from the centre of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practise playing second fiddle.
Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fuelled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.
Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”
Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.